Image: Francine Alfontent and baby
submitted by Wendy Brown
Francine Alfontent holds her baby after the delivery Monday in Manhattan's East Broadway subway station.
By Elizabeth Chuck Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 6/24/2008 5:00:07 PM ET 2008-06-24T21:00:07

For New Yorker Wendy Brown, Monday's subway ride home included an unexpected stop: Helping to deliver a baby girl.

Brown walked into the train station Monday afternoon to find a crowd gathered around a pregnant woman at the bottom of the stairs.

"I thought she fell, but it ended up she was getting contractions and was about to give birth," Brown told msnbc.com.

The woman, Francine Alfontent, was with her husband when she started going into labor on the F train platform at the East Broadway stop in Manhattan.

The New York Daily News reported that Alfontent and her husband, Max, had left their Brooklyn home about 3 p.m. and were on a train going to Bellevue Hospital. “My wife started feeling funny on the train so I told the conductor and he called ahead to the station," Max Alfontent told the Daily News.

A husband in shock
Alfontent's husband and a bystander, a nurse, were helping Alfontent when Brown saw them.

"The husband was kind of in shock," Brown said. "I held the woman's hand and encouraged her to breathe through the pain."

Others in the crowd put items of clothing underneath Alfontent to prepare for their baby's arrival and a briefcase to lay her head down on, Brown said.

Another witness, Tony James of Brooklyn, got off at the station right before Alfontent gave birth. Thinking someone had been injured, he went over to see if he could help and found the nurse holding a watch in her hand, timing Alfontent's contractions.

Alfontent was "moaning and groaning, saying 'Take the baby out,'" James said. "The nurse would open up the girl's legs every once in a while to see if the baby was coming."

Meanwhile, another witness went to guide emergency personnel to Alfontent. He returned a few minutes later with Fire Department officials and EMTs, and shortly after, Brown said, Alfontent "gave birth right there on the platform." And New York's transit system didn't skip a beat: "Trains were coming in and out of the train station."

'We all saw a miracle happening'
"When the baby came, people clapped and cheered," Brown said. "New Yorkers are wonderful. People think we're mean and nasty, but we all saw a miracle happening, and we all stood around and helped, and a beautiful baby girl came."

The baby arrived at approximately 3:45 p.m., about 20 minutes after Brown had arrived at the scene.

"Guys were coming up and they were saying, 'Congratulations, Mom, you're a very strong woman,' and guys were giving the father high fives," James said. "It's not every day that a woman has a baby on the subway."

According to local affiliate WNBC, Alfontent delivered a 6-pound, 7-ounce baby named Soleil. Paramedics gave Alfontent oxygen and then transported her and Soleil to the hospital, James said.

After the delivery, Alfontent was "overwhelmed," Brown said. "I kept telling her she did a fantastic job. Right there on the platform — I would have had a fit! She was a trouper. She was so happy and thankful."

Alfontent and Soleil were both healthy and resting in New York's Bellevue Hospital on Tuesday, WNBC reported. Alfontent did not return a call from msnbc.com.

Brown, who was on her way home from her social work counselor position at the time of the birth, exchanged phone numbers with Alfontent and her husband.

"I'm going out to their home on Sunday to see the baby and to make sure they got the pictures."

New York NBC affiliate WNBC contributed to this report.

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